HONOLULU – Many retired Navy ships have been turned into museums, but community groups here are hoping for what military officials say is a first: turning a decommissioned vessel into a floating homeless shelter.
The 642-foot (195-meter) destroyer tender Acadia was built in 1981 and sailed around the world several times with a crew of 1,500 before it was decommissioned in 1994. In January, Navy officials decided to dispose of, sell off or give away the vessel, which is docked at Pearl Harbor. Most ships are used for scrap or training after they are retired.
"Land is a high commodity. We live on a rock," the Rev. Gary Shields, director of the Victory Ohana Prison Fellowship, told The Honolulu Advertiser. "Hawaii has to do something different and out of the box. And this is out of the box."
A coalition of called the Acadia Acquisition Committee is negotiating with the state for a place to put the ship. Its proposal calls for Acadia to start housing people as early as May 2009.
Organizers are trying to determine how much the program would cost but are expecting to spend $2 million just to get the ship ready for basic accommodations such as air conditioning, revamped bunks and bedrooms.
Homelessness is a growing problem in Hawaii, as low-income families faced some of the highest living costs in the nation. The number of unsheltered homeless counted at seven areas on Oahu in January was 3,750, up 28 percent from a year ago.